Inside Look: Life and Facilities at Belmarsh Prison

Prison Info

Welcome to our insider’s guide to Belmarsh Prison. In this detailed exploration, we delve into the realities, facilities, and day-to-day experiences of life in one of the UK’s most maximum-security correctional facilities.

Belmarsh Prison, located in Thamesmead South London, is often referred to as the ‘UK’s version of Guantanamo Bay’. Known for housing high-profile and terrorist offenders, this high-security institution is not only a place of punishment but also of resilience and reform.

Join us as we take a closer look at life inside Belmarsh Prison.

Living Conditions

The living conditions within Belmarsh aim to maintain a fine balance between security and rehabilitative support. The standards of accommodation here are largely dependent on the category of prisoner.

  • The prison holds around 900 inmates across four residential units.
  • Cells are spatially limited, equipped with only a bed, toilet, sink, and minimal storage space.
  • Prisoners are allowed out of their cells for approximately 7 hours a day.


Even in such a strict environment, Belmarsh offers a range of facilities dedicated to rehabilitation and personal development.

  • The library facilitates the prisoners’ educational pursuits.
  • The gym encourages physical fitness.
  • There are also chapel services for spiritual support and counseling.

Educational & Work Opportunities

Belmarsh prison offers robust opportunities for learning and work, aiming to promote employability and personal growth among prisoners.

  • Offenders can study a range of subjects, from basic literacy and numeracy to vocational qualifications.
  • Work opportunities provided include positions in cleaning, laundry, kitchens, and grounds maintenance.


Healthcare at Belmarsh is comprehensive and covers both mental and physical health. The prison runs a 24-hour healthcare service.

  • The healthcare team consists of doctors, nurses, psychologists, and a psychiatrist.
  • There is also a drug recovery wing, aiming to treat and support those grappling with substance abuse.

The Regime

Belmarsh operates a stringent regime; however, many aspects are designed to support inmates in leading a crime-free life after their imprisonment.

  • There is a definite focus on encouraging positive attitude changes and providing tools for prisoners to reintegrate into society successfully.
  • The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 provides many inmates with the chance to re-establish themselves in society, depersonalizing the stigma of their past and focusing on a more holistic view of their future.

Legal Visits & Social Ties

Despite its reputation, Belmarsh recognizes the importance of maintaining social ties and has structured provisions for this.

  • Prisoners are entitled to at least two one-hour visits every four weeks.
  • Legal visits can be more frequent, and additionally, special arrangements can be made in exceptional circumstances.


Like all prison establishments, smuggling of banned items, including drugs and phones, is a persistent concern and remains a challenging issue for Belmarsh.

Meals & Dietary Requirements

Belmarsh strives to cater to various dietary needs, cultural preferences, and religious beliefs.

  • Prisoners can choose their weekly meals from a pre-set menu that rotates every 3 weeks.
  • Kitchen works in consultation with the chaplaincy to prepare suitable food for different religious festivals.
    • The Challenge of Mental Health

      Mental health is a pressing issue in prisons across the UK including Belmarsh. The prison management is committed to provide proper mental health treatment to inmates in need.


      Life at Belmarsh, like any prison, is tough. Yet, it is more than a place of confinement – it is an institution attempting to navigate the tricky path of punishment and reform for the UK’s most serious offenders. As we continue to explore other UK prisons, we gain more invaluable insights into the complexities of the UK justice system.

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